Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish. He said, “I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and he answered me. I called to you from the land of the dead, and Lord, you heard me! You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea. The mighty waters engulfed me; I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves. Then I said, ‘O Lord, you have driven me from your presence. Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.’ “I sank beneath the waves, and the waters closed over me. Seaweed wrapped itself around my head. I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was imprisoned in the earth, whose gates lock shut forever. But you, O Lord my God, snatched me from the jaws of death! As my life was slipping away, I remembered the Lord. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple. Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God’s mercies. But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.” Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach. Jonah 2:1-10(NLT)
It only took me a minute and twelve seconds to read those verses, but the drama of Jonah’s prayer took three days to accomplish. In retrospect, it probably took Jonah’s whole lifetime for God to hear that prayer.
Jonah had decided on running away and refusing to obey God’s leading towards the Nineveh project; all it got him was a smelly, dark seat next to fish innards with seaweed wrapped around his noggin. But this became a near-death experience for Jonah that awakened him to just how much like the Ninevites he’d become. Jonah thought of the people of Nineveh as “pagans” but he was the one turning his back on God’s mercies and worshipping the false God of his own choosing. It was now time to “pay all his vows” with sacrifices of praise and proclamation of salvation that comes only from Yahweh!
As a devout Jew, Jonah hated even the sound of Nineveh. That was the place of godless pagans who hated Israel, and Jonah wanted nothing to do with his enemies. And therein is a very poignant message for all prophets of the 21st century: signing-up with the platform of one political party or another might get you a ride in God’s fish taxi to put you back on the right platform! The people of God are no different today than God’s people in any age. We are not called to be Republicans, Democrats, Tea-Party, Green Party, or anything other than God-party.
The next time you get a piece of political mail, or a phone call asking you to do, choose, or buy something, or any kind of request that comes across your path, do what it took Jonah too long to do…look towards God’s holy temple; don’t run it past the checklist of political correctness or political activism, run it past the throne.